Louisiana Receives Second Group of Whooping Cranes

A second group of juvenile whooping cranes was delivered December 1 to White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WCA) in Gueydan as part of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) species’ restoration project.

Notice the feather coloration, the juvenile in front has little brown left but the bird on the left is still quite brown. (Credit: Jane Chandler, Patuxent)

“Our biologists will continue their work to establish a non-migratory population of whooping cranes in coastal Louisiana to assist with this endangered species recovery effort,” said Robert Barham, LDWF Secretary.

Sixteen whooping cranes were flown to southwest Louisiana on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) aircraft from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland, according to a Monday (December 5) news release.

The White Lake location in Vermilion Parish is the site where 10 whooping cranes, the first cohort in the long-term restoration, were released in March. That group of birds marked the first presence of whooping cranes in the wild in Louisiana since 1950.

“This is an impressive project launched by the Louisiana Department of Fisheries and Wildlife to bring the whooping crane back to this part of its historic range and marks a bold step for its ultimate recovery,” said Cindy Dohner, USFWS Southeast Regional Director. “We are excited about their work and proud of our partnership with Secretary Barham and his agency as we continue working together to bring this majestic bird back to Louisiana.”

LDWF continues to work cooperatively with USFWS, USGS, the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and the International Crane Foundation to bring the species back to the state. Project funding is derived from LDWF species restoration dedicated funds, federal grants, and private/corporate donations.

“The USFWS Migratory Bird Program is honored to participate in the efforts of adding additional birds to the group of reintroduced wild whooping cranes to Louisiana.” says Jerome Ford, Assistant Director, Migratory Birds Program.”Our pilot biologists were thrilled to contribute by using their Kodiak planes to ensure the whooping cranes’ safe arrival.”

Female whooping crane foraging in a pond. (Credit: Jane Chandler, Patuxent)

The whooping cranes Louisiana receives are designated as a non-essential, experimental population (NEP) under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. This designation and its implementing regulation were developed to be more compatible with routine human activities in the reintroduction area.

Of the 10 cranes released in March from White Lake, three have survived and continue to be tracked by transmitter devices attached to each bird. Two cranes were killed by predators, one was euthanized due to illness, two are missing and unaccounted for, and two were shot and killed on October 9 in Jefferson Davis Parish. LDWF Enforcement Division agents have charged two juveniles, who were alleged to have been involved with the two crane deaths.

Anyone who spends time in the marshes and rice fields of southwest Louisiana should welcome the opportunity to see these magnificent birds. Although whooping cranes in Louisiana are considered an “experimental, non-essential population” under the Endangered Species Act, they are still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and cannot be pursued, harassed, captured, or killed.

Waterfowl hunters should be accustomed to seeing large-bodied, white birds with black wing-tips, such as white ibis, white pelicans, and wood storks, which must be distinguished from the legally-hunted snow geese.

Mature whooping cranes are equally identifiable as they stand five feet tall and have a wingspan of seven to eight feet. Easily identifiable characteristics of whooping cranes in flight include black wing tips and fully extended neck and legs, which extend well beyond the tail. Standing whooping cranes also exhibit the bustle of rump feathers more pronounced than other large white birds.


Ten of the 16 chicks can be spotted in this photo. (Credit: Jane Chandler, Patuxent)


White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WCA)

White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WCA) is located in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana. The contiguous unit is 70,965 acres, located along the western boundary of Vermilion parish; it is bounded on the south by White Lake the northern boundary is 7.4 miles south of Gueydan at the south end of Highway 91. Lafayette is 32 air miles northeast and Lake Charles is 40 air miles northwest. The southern boundary of White Lake is 17.5 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. The property averages 12 miles from east to west and 9 miles from north to south.

Phone: (337) 479-1894

Website: wlf.louisiana.gov/refuge/white-lake-wetlands-conservations-area

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

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